Overview of GANHRI 2021 Annual Meeting

GANHRI marks another year of vigorous work and progress with the completion of its annual meeting last week. In unprecedented times, when countries are attempting to resume a sense of normality among the pandemic, GANHRI brought together online more than 300 participants from NHRIs, partners, and experts worldwide for engagement and exchange 

The meeting consisted of online events strategically designed to be highly interactive to successfully create a space of inclusion despite physical distance and varying time zones.  

The annual meeting was held from 29 June to 1 July.  

The agenda included three major panel discussion events: 

  • Knowledge Exchange of Good Practices (30 June) 
  • Event on Business and Human Rights (30 June) 
  • Consultation on the GANHRI Global Action Plan on human rights defenders and civic space (1 July) 


COVID-19 remained a strong theme in the Knowledge Exchange due to the last year and half demonstrating the imperative roles NHRIs played in defending human rights throughout a global pandemic. The annual meeting took place after the release of the tripartite study on NHRIs and COVID-19. Many key elements of the study, contributed by NHRIs, were reflected in the Knowledge Exchange of Good Practices. Institutions shared challenges, lessons, and achievements concerning the situations they encountered, and offered innovative considerations to ensure preparedness and expand their future work. 


The event on Business and Human Rights discussed emergent themes, specifically regarding technology and climate. It emphasised how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) build the fundamentals for NHRIs to respond to human rights violations.  

This event co-sponsored with OHCHR, UNDP and UNEP saw the participation of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on environment that reaffirmed the key role of NHRIs in addressing corporate-related human rights challenges through their global network. 

 Additionally, constructive discussion transpired regarding the need for NHRIs to develop new methods, acquire knowledge, and strengthen their mandate to achieve objectives in the protection of corporate-related human rights in the next decade. The NHRIs of Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and South Africa shared practical examples of how they are implementing the Edinburgh Declaration and the UNGPs at the national level. 


The annual meeting concluded with the Consultation of GANHRI’s Global Action Plan on human rights defenders and civic space, which indicated a significant milestone for the organization. The initiative recognizes the essential roles human rights defenders possess and the opposition they face in defending human rights and civic space.  

The acting GANHRI Chair, Dr. Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri, stated in his address, 

The Plan aims at building the capacity of NHRIs to monitor civic space and the situation of human rights defenders; support the establishment of protection mechanisms; and promote positive narratives on the work of human rights defenders.” 

The event featured high-end speakers including Ilze Brands Kehris from UN Human Rights Office, Achim Steiner from UNDP, and EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, whose messages aligned with Dr. Ali. Each welcomed this fundamental effort from GANHRI and reiterated the importance of civic space, human rights defenders, and the value of working together. 


In addition to the panel discussions the Annual Meeting included: 

  • Bureau meeting (29 June) 
  • General Assembly (01 July) 

GANHRI Head Office reported on the positive progress and plans for the implementation of the GANHRI 2020-2022 Strategic plan. 

During the General Assembly A status NHRIs ratified the new Bureau members for the Americas (NHRIs of Argentina, Canada and El Salvador) and the 2021 Work Plan. The GANHRI Working groups also shared updates via video messages on achievements of the last year. 


A special thanks to all our member NHRIs for their participation in the GANHRI Annual Meeting. Thank you to our partners UNDP, UNEP, and OHCHR for their unwavering support and collaboration; we look forward to our next engagement.